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June 8, 2023

Extreme Rises Again

via Rock and Roll Globe

“We are going to be tired boys!” says Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone with a laugh.

He’s referring to the extensive worldwide tour dates that the band will undertake through the rest of this year. But he adds, “Extreme prides itself on performance, so that’s where the band shines, I think – we’re ready.”

Cherone and his bandmates are extra excited to hit the road this time because they’re showcasing songs from their sixth studio album, appropriately titled Six, which comes out on June 9 (via earMUSIC).

“I think the new material is what’s going to inspire this tour,” he says. “I think that’s what’s going to make the difference, as far as passion and what the audience is going to get.”

He notes that fans have already reacted positively to their return, as evidenced by their enthusiasm for Six’s first single, “Rise,” which is closing in on three million views on YouTube. “We’re, I’m not afraid to say, a little overwhelmed at the responses we’re getting for the video, so that’s a good sign,” he says.

It’s understandable that fans are thrilled to have new Extreme material because the band haven’t released a studio album since 2008’s Saudades de Rock. Cherone says that this long break between albums was never intentional, however.

“This record has been in the works for a while,” he says. “There’s been a few stops and starts throughout the years. I don’t want to blame COVID, but we didn’t really want to put out a record during the COVID years if we weren’t able to support it playing live, so that delayed it for a minute. The stars finally aligned, so that’s why it’s coming out in 2023. In a perfect world, it would have come out a few years earlier.”

As with previous Extreme albums, Cherone wrote the songs with guitarist Nuno Bettencourt; Cherone says they have an easy working relationship.

“Nuno and I, we’re always writing, so we have a lot of material,” he says. “That’s always been the case: we’ve never really had a problem writing. We’ve been very fortunate that we fill a void within each other, and we know each other. Nuno is our resident genius; he’s a brilliant musician.”

This isn’t to say that songwriting is always easy, however: “You’ll write a song and then you’ll have a dry spell and think, ‘OK, that’s it, career over, I’m dried up!’” But that, he says, is when discipline comes into play. “You’ve got to get in front of your notepad and stare at that piece of paper with nothing on it. If you’re just waiting for inspiration, there’s too many distractions in the day that will take you off that path.”

When he’s really felt stuck, Cherone says he’s found it helpful to do landscaping or other chores around the house, because doing things like that means “your mind is free to roam.”

This approach is apparently working, because Six finds Cherone and Bettencort delivering songs that are at once instantly recognizable as Extreme, but with a multifaceted spin. “The band’s sound has evolved from the early days, but there’s the common thread of my voice and Nuno’s guitar,” Cherone says. “I think, with this record, there’s outside influences, [such as] Nuno working with Rihanna – maybe him being exposed to some of that pop that made its way into this record. I don’t think it’s there overtly, but it’s there.”

He also cites admiration for other artists, such as country artist Zac Brown, as an even more unexpected subtle influence. “I think [Extreme’s new song] ‘Small Town Beautiful’ could have been a country song. If you asked us if that would have been an influence ten years ago, we would have scratched our head.”

In truth, though, finding inspiration from other artists is nothing new for Extreme. “We certainly are the bastard sons of our influences: we wear those influences on our sleeve,” Cherone says. “We grew up with Led zeppelin, Aerosmith, Queen, Van Halen, and all that stuff.” (Cherone went on to become the lead singer for Van Halen from 1996-1999.)

Extreme took all of those influences and created their own distinctive melodic hard rock sound, which allowed them to quickly rise through the ranks in their native Boston, and land a record deal. They gained widespread fame with their second album, 1990’s Extreme II: Pornograffiti, though Cherone says it didn’t initially look like it would turn out that way.

“We were nine months into that record, playing clubs,” he recalls. “We were about to do our third record, and then the stars aligned. I think a radio station played “More than Words” and it got [listener] numbers and the record company noticed it and decided to do a single.”

“More than Words,” a poignant acoustic ballad, hit the top spot on the U.S. singles chart, as well as becoming a hit around the world. Pornograffiti also included “Hole Hearted,” an exuberant pop rock track that soared high into the charts internationally, as well. Based on those successes, Pornograffiti earned platinum or gold sales status in multiple countries.

There was a downside to the success they had with these acoustic-heavy songs, however: “Thus came the misconception, ‘This is a ballad band.’ We were like, ‘Wait a minute, we’re a rock band!’ So back in the day, there was that moment of frustration.”

By now, Cherone says, the band members have long gotten past this annoyance, and now they’re happy to play those songs at their shows simply because they know how happy it makes their longtime followers. “We definitely have a unique relationship with our fans,” he says. “We might not have the largest audience, but we certainly have one of the most loyal audiences.”

He’s grateful that their fans have also shown their willing to remain open-minded Extreme’s current material, as they’re doing now with Six. “They might not like everything that we do, but I do think they appreciate we’re writing honestly for where we’re at at the time,” Cherone says.

As he looks back on the legacy he’s built with Extreme – and looks forward to their future with Six and the subsequent touring – Cherone says he’s grateful. “You could almost equate it to sports: there’s plenty of people who want to play [professional] baseball, but there’s only a few that get through to make it – that million to one shot,” he says. “So Extreme, we understand how fortunate we are.”